PASADENA — After some final dispirited denunciations of City Councilman Isaac Richard, the City Council apparently laid to rest, at least for now, the issue of Richard's peevish relations with others in city government.
The final chapter of a two-month saga, during which Richard has apologized for swearing at a city staff member and faced the censure of his colleagues for allegedly abusive behavior, began with a tense exchange between Councilman William Paparian and Richard.
Paparian demanded an explanation of published remarks by Richard, in which the black councilman denounced a censure vote against him last month as the action of a "white, racist City Council."
"Are the quotes accurate?" Paparian asked.
"This is not an inquisition," Richard said. "I will not answer questions worded in that fashion."
But Richard defended his right to speak out. "We do have freedom of speech in this country," he said. "This council has absolutely no right to do anything about it . . . and absolutely no power."
"I think it's outrageous that this kind of allegation is made," Paparian said. "It's time to stand up and put an end to it. It's time to stop using color as a crutch."
Paparian had raised the possibility a few weeks ago of a second censure of Richard for the quoted remarks, but no such measure was proposed on Tuesday.
Richard's behavior has been a council issue since July, when he cursed and threatened Housing Administrator Phyllis Mueller after a heated debate during a council meeting. Richard publicly apologized to her.
But a week later, he set the pot boiling again when he accused Mayor Rick Cole of being a bigot for supporting the city manager's request for a district attorney's investigation of police handling of a 911 "family disturbance" call last fall by the estranged wife of Police Chief Jerry Oliver. Richard called the request for an investigation of Oliver, who is black, a "lynching" and a "coon hunt."
Then, on Aug. 11, after considerable discussion about the wisdom of doing so, a bare majority of four voted to censure their flamboyant colleague for rude remarks and "antisocial behavior." Two council members present at the meeting abstained.
The issue prompted a related council action to put teeth in the City Charter section relating to censures. In future censure actions, the offending council member will be deprived of such councilmanic privileges as travel expenses, insurance benefits, Tournament of Roses tickets and the use of city-owned computer equipment.
At Tuesday's meeting, Cole said Richard's inflammatory comments have interrupted the operation of city government. "We risk paralyzing this government behind this issue," Cole said, urging that the council conclude its deliberations.
But he took the opportunity to denounce Richard for trying to "needlessly divide the community" by stirring up racial tensions.
"You made those statements," Cole said, addressing Richard. "You've made those statements to me. I believe they are abusive, slanderous and inaccurate. But the First Amendment gives you the right to say them."
Paparian, addressing Richard's charges of racism, quoted the story of the boy who cried wolf. "Who's going to believe this type of allegation when there is a foundation for it in the future?" Paparian said. "It cheapens the memory of victims of racism. . . . It's time to shape up or ship out, Isaac."
"We'll miss you," Richard snapped.
Councilman William Thomson said he didn't think "we ought to waste our time and give dignity to these kind of comments." Councilman Chris Holden, the other black on the council, refused to engage in public criticism of Richard. Council members Kathryn Nack and Jess Hughston were absent.
After the discussion, Richard left the meeting to go on a business trip. On his way out of City Hall, he dismissed his colleagues' criticisms.
"They looked stupid," he said. "They looked as stupid as they did passing around the dictionary, trying to figure out what \o7 censure \f7 means."